Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Guru Report: Re-Energized Villanova Shoots Down DePaul While Delaware and Drexel Get CAA Wins

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

VILLANOVA - Wildcats women’s fans arrived at Jake Nevin Field House Friday night for a Big East showdown with DePaul, one of the conference frontrunners, not knowing what to think about their team’s prospects.

A few weeks earlier there was no reason for concern as Villanova won its first 10 games, including an upset of nationally-ranked Duke, a blowout of Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s, and returned to the Associated Press women’s poll for the first time since 2004. 

Furthermore, the Wildcats clinched a tie for the City Series crown at 3-0 with just Penn, a team that hadn’t gotten past them since 2001, in the way of an outright local crown.

But suddenly here they were in a slide off a workload of four games in the previous seven prior to a last-second loss here to Penn 48 hours earlier that meant the Big 5 is going to be shared with the winner of next Wednesday’s Penn-Temple game at Temple’s McGonigle Hall.

But more important, with the weekend Friday-Saturday considered a toss-up when prospecting the Big East and hopes for an NCAA bid, how to beat the odds and fatigue to get back on the upswing?

Not to worry, apparently.

Villanova soared at the gate rocketing to 19-5 lead in the first quarter and finished the first half with a sizzling 71.4 percent first half rate from the field on the way to a lopsided 84-58 victory, the most dominating win in the history of their series.

For the entire game, the Wildcats shot 33-for-58 from the field for a 56.9 percent mark. 

And in the crazy Big East, help even came elsewhere with a stunning host Georgetown 85-58 win over Marquette, which was the visitors’ first conference loss, and host Butler slipped past Creighton 59-53.

“I don’t think people understand how good our conference is top to bottom in terms of being competitive,” veteran Villanova coach Harry Perretta said upon hearing the scores from elsewhere.

But the immediate focus was how his team that he feared had just worn down instead suddenly looked once again like one of the more prominent Division I programs in the area this season.

He didn’t have an immediate answer from a Wildcats group that had quick turnaround from the bunch that had labored against the Quakers here Wednesday night.

“They shocked me,” Perretta said. “I didn’t think they could muster that much energy, I’ll be honest with you after all these games and our defense was spectacular.”

The Blue Demon’s production was their lowest on the season.

Villanova (15-4, 5-3 Big East) forced DePaul (14-6, 6-2) into 16 turnovers.

“I was just amazed. I don’t know what else to say.”

As for DePaul’s struggles for a team that can shoot the three, certainly as well as Villanova, matching the Wildcats with 10 for the game, but on 33 attempts to ‘Nova’s 21, Perretta observed, “I think what happened was sometimes when you get the lead on somebody, you saw that one stretch in the second quarter they made six (overall shots, four 3s) in a row like it was nothing, but when you couldn’t chip into the lead in the third quarter, it becomes frustrating and you start to miss.

“We did that against Butler. Once we fell behind, we couldn’t make a shot.”

DePaul entered the game as the top three-point shooting team in the nation.

The win was just Villanova’s fifth against 14 losses in the series leaving longtime DePaul coach Doug Bruno still five short of his 700th victory.

Villanova’s Alex Louin and Adrianna Hahn each scored game highs of 17 points with Louin grabbing nine rebounds while Hahn also dealt seven assists and connected on 3-of-5 three ball attempts. 

Before the night was over, Hahn, the pride of Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Del., had become the newest member of the Villanova 1,000 career-point club, the 28th on the milestone breakthrough list.

Mary Gedaka came off the bench again with great support, scoring 14 points, while Megan Quinn had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Amarah Coleman scored 13 for the Blue Demons and Kelly Campbell had a near double double with 12 points and nine rebounds, and reserve Tanita Allen scored 10.

Hahn, who achieved her 1,000th off one of her trademark three-balls in the third quarter, said she and her teammates just needed to put everything aside and emerge with a major gut check.

“Especially losing to Butler and St. John’s and Penn the other night, our mentality was going down so we knew we had to come together as a team, play defensively, get stops, knock down shots, and play within ourselves.

“Tonight, we made shots and we picked each other up and when we made mistakes, we didn’t look back on them, we just kept playing the game.”

In a interesting note of juxtaposition, the evening was billed as Villanova’s We Back Pat night, the fundraiser for the foundation of the late legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who died of alzheimer’s in June, 2016.

Perretta had become a good friend of hers later in their careers after she approached him to teach her staff his famed motion offense.

But in gaining his 738th win Friday night, Perretta moved into 20th place on the all-time win list past another legend, the late North Carolina State and Olympic coach Kay Yow, in whose name the nation’s coaches hold annual events to raise money for her foundation in the fight against breast cancer, of which she was claimed in January of 2009.

Meanwhile, moving forward, Marquette will tip here Sunday at noon with Villanova and televised on FS1.

The game will complete the first half of play against the conference with the second part beginning Friday at Xavier and Sunday at Butler.

Drexel and Delaware Stay Locked at Second after CAA Wins on the Road

The only other two games on the Guru local schedule had Drexel at Northeastern while Delaware was at UNCW and both won to stay within a game of frontrunning James Madison (10-7, 6-0 CAA), the preseason favorite, that stayed unbeaten in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 67-45 win at Charleston.

Up in Boston, Drexel stayed hot overall with a 69-58 victory over Northeastern at the Huskies’ Cabot Center in Boston using a strong third quarter to pull away to the win.

Kelsi Lidge ended up two short of her career high scoring 21 points for the Dragons (13-5, -5-1 CAA) before a packed house favoring the opposition.

The win was Drexel’s seventh in its last eight games, the lone setback being early this month at JMU, which is the difference separating the two CAA powers.

Lidge also had nine rebounds, five assists, and a pair of blocks. Megan Marecic scored 13 and helped clinch the game at the foul line near the end to repulse a rally by Northeastern (8-9, 3-3). 

The Huskies’ Jess Genco had a game-high 23 points while Gabby Giacone scored 14 to account for the two Northeastern players who scored in double figures.

Drexel connected on seven 3-balls while Northeastern scored four in a matchup between the two top conference schools when it comes to connecting from beyond the arc. The Dragons entered with a 6.6 completion average while the Huskies were at an 8.9 clip.

Coach Denise Dillon’s group finishes out the weekend road trip visiting Hofstra, Sunday, at 2, in Hempstead, N.Y., on the front end of Long Island.

Meanwhile, Delaware, which has been a surprise since its early non-conference struggles and CAA-opening loss at Drexel, gained a victory on the front end of the Blue Hens’ weekend road trip topping host UNCW 82-49 at the Trask Coliseum in Wilmington, N.C.

The game matched two coaches new to their teams but not to the CAA.

The host Seahawks are guided by Karen Barefoot, who was previously at Old Dominion, though the last several seasons the Lady Monarchs have competed in Conference-USA.

The Blue Hens are guided by Natasha Adair, who was previously at Georgetown but prior to that was in charge at Charleston in the CAA.

Furthermore, one of Barefoot’s aides is former longtime Delaware coach Tina Martin, who stepped down after last season but decided she wasn’t ready to be through with the profession.

In Friday’s game, sensation Nicole Enabosi poured down 25 points for the Blue Hens (12-5, 5-1), who won their fifth straight while Enabosi became the 27th member of the Delaware 1,000-point club.

She also grabbed 14 rebounds for her 13th double double and 34th in her three-year career.

Samone DeFreese had 11 points and 10 rebounds to go with four assists, a pair of steals and no turnovers in her 26 minutes against UNCW (7-11, 0-7), who are still looking for their first CAA win of the season.

Madison Raque scored 13 points and Lacey Suggs scored 12 for the Seahawks.

“This was a great team win,” Adair said. “On the road, we talk about being road tough and our will being greater than our opponents and finishing the game exhausted.

“We needed to put together a whole 40 minute effort.”

Said Enabosi of her milestone, “it’s awesome to get a 1,000 as a junior, I didn’t know I was that close. It’s surreal. It’s amazing. It’s mind-blowing. When I came to Delaware, I didn’t think it was something that was possible. To get it today was great.”

Bailey Kargo had 10 points in the Delaware attack.

The Blue Hens finish the weekend road trip Sunday at Elon in Alumni Gym in Elon, N.C. at 1 p.m. against the defending CAA tournament champions.

Elon is coached by former North Carolina great Charlotte Smith, who hit the famed three-pointer at the buzzer against Louisiana Tech to give the Tar Heels their only NCAA championship.

Looking Ahead: Temple/UConn Sold Out

Don’t know if this is a first in terms of advance, though the place has been packed in recent seasons, but Sunday’s  American Athletic Conference Temple game against Top-Ranked and unbeaten Connecticut at 1 p.m. on ESPN2 in the 2,000-seat McGonigle Hall is sold out to the public, the Owls announced Friday night, though some student seats are still available.

Prior to the games with Connecticut being played in McGonigle Hall instead of the larger Liacouras Center next door, the longstanding near-sellout record in the venue belonged to a game in Dawn Staley’s senior season when the local Philadelphia legend, later to coach Temple, last season’s NCAA champion South Carolina squad, and this year’s USA Basketball World Championship squad and the 2020 USA Olympians, came home with her alma mater Virginia.

Connecticut arrives at the game unknown but considered highly doubtful that Katie Lou Samuelson will play after an injury in Thursday’s Tulsa game  at home, an affair that has had Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma dismayed over the performance of his Huskies.

This game also serves as the annual homecoming for Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown and it wouldn’t be surprising off the early Sunday start that he may slip away from his team and head to South Philly for the NFL NFC Conference showdown between the host Eagles and Minnesota Vikins, who will be trying to become the first true home team to play in the Super Bowl since the game is in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile Temple may get one of the injured players back but the Owls are coming into the game on a slide of which the most recent setback was a first-ever lost to Houston at home on Tuesday night in McGonigle Hall.

And that’s the report.